The Austin Chronicle

Heavenly Hyrulian Harmonies

By Sean Carey, July 2, 2013, 3:51pm, Picture in Picture

Ba da da daaaaaaaa! For longtime fans of gaming and younger generations alike, the four notes that play when a chest opens in a Zelda game are as iconic and memorable as the first four notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.

The love affair between classical music and video games is rich with history. The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses, which played at the Long Center on Saturday, June 29, celebrated this love with culture and refinement combined with the energy of a rock concert.

The show was replete with nods to Zelda fans of all ages and stripes. Early games like Link to the Past and Link’s Awakening, lesser-known portable titles like Spirit Tracks, and such newer entries as Twilight Princess and even Skyward Sword were all represented in the symphony’s four movements. Each piece acted as a synopsis of a different game, with video clips from the games projected in the background to help present each story in a (deku) nutshell.

It’s abundantly obvious that the show’s creators intimately know and love the Zelda series, and it shines through in the small touches: The conductor used a replica Wind Waker baton for one of the movements, for example, and the videos from DS games were presented in two-screen format, bringing a sense of real video game fandom and liquid joy to the occasion. Everyone there was united in a common love for the games and for the music of longtime Zelda composer Koji Kondo.

Console games have borrowed from traditional classical music as far back as Pirates! and Battle of Olympus on the NES, which used pieces from Handel and Bach, respectively. The fact that orchestral music translated well with the sound limitations of early consoles may have contributed to this, although it is more likely that using music in the public domain was extremely appealing to a team of programmers who couldn’t afford to pay a musical guru.

The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses demonstrates that video games have repaid their debt to classical music in full, by evolving the medium and bringing in a whole new audience to an art form that many fear is shrinking into obscurity. Anyone who attended that show and heard hundreds of people of all ages scream and whistle for a first-chair violinist like he was a glam front-man in his prime would be forced to agree that fear is (Ga)nonsensical.

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